Residents sound off on muffler law

JOHNSTOWN-Town residents voiced their opinions about a proposed muffler law at Monday’s Town Board meeting.

The law – proposed by Town Board member Daryl Baldwin – would prohibit modifications to stock or aftermarket mufflers that would render the muffler inoperative.

The law would prohibit a person using a small motorized vehicle – such as all-terrain vehicles, off-highway motorcycles, mini-bikes or any other vehicle meant for recreation or pleasure – from causing noise that would annoy, disturb or endanger the comfort, health, peace or safety of “reasonable persons of ordinary sensibilities and tolerance for sound levels.”

If a person is found violating the law, they could face fines. First-time offenders could be fined $25 to $50; second offenders in the same year could be fined $50 to $100; repeat offenders within one year could face up to $250 in fines.

James Hopkins and Steve Shwajlyk, residents of the town, both supported the muffler law and shared their experiences with the board at its meeting Monday.

Hopkins, whose neighbors ride dirt bikes and other all-terrain vehicles, was disappointed a law was needed to make people act like good neighbors.

“I think it is needed. Sometimes you can talk to your neighbor if you have a problem and that will resolve it, but it doesn’t always work that way,” he said.

Hopkins said he felt the law, when put in place, would offer a way to help stop these disputes.

Shwajlyk said his neighbor invites friends over to ride a trail system in the woods. Shwajlyk hopes the proposed law would curb the noise they generate. While he spoke to his neighbor about the noise, Shwajlyk claimed the person did not comply because there was no law on the books.

“It is ridiculous; I told him to at least put a muffler on it so I wouldn’t hear it echoing up the hill, and he said it [had a muffler]. I don’t think it does; it is really loud,” Shwajlyk said. “I don’t mind [him] riding around, but to do it on a consistent basis every weekend, I shouldn’t be subjected to hear this stuff. It devalues my property if I wanted to sell it. Who is going to want to buy my property living next to that?”

Shwajlyk also suggested the board look at a decibel limit.

However, town officials said the machinery used to enforce decibel limits is difficult to use and expensive, and noise ordinances are hard to enforce.

Caitlyn Hart, who opposed the proposed law, said she felt the planned legislation would unfairly target off-road enthusiasts.

Shwajlyk suggested off-road enthusiasts pay to use a track instead of riding near neighbors.

“Just like you do at a rifle range,” he said.

Town Board member Jim Westover was still unsure about how effective the proposal would be. He said many stock and aftermarket mufflers are still very loud.

Westover said the bord should try to get more information to make sure the proposed law would be effective.

He suggested the board – along with town Code Enforcement Officer Ryan Fagan – look into the noise disputes between neighbors as well as speak with local off-road-vehicle dealers.

Other members of the board agreed with the suggestion.